Dispelling the myths around the new coronavirus outbreak

A new coronavirus outbreak that is thought to have originated in China’s central city of Wuhan has spread to two dozen countries across the globe, infecting more than 14,000 people and killing over 300.

All but one of the deaths from the virus have occurred in China and the vast majority of the infections have also been reported there. Some 14,380 cases have been documented in China since the coronavirus, labelled 2019-nCoV, was first detected in late December.

The fast-spread of the deadly virus has been accompanied by misinformation and hoaxes online, including false claims about its source, its spread and how to treat it – a development doctors and health experts have called “dangerous”.

On Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the virus epidemic in China a public health emergency of international concern. But Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director-general, said the main reason for the designation was not “because of what is happening in China” but “the potential for this virus to spread to other countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it”.

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